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Good Evening and Congratulations! I can not tell you how thrilled I am to be here celebrating this very special accomplishment with you! I’d like to start by reading you a fitting quote from the book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, by the great Dr. Seuss; “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are they guy who’ll decide where to go.”
I know how hard you’ve worked to get where you are tonight, and you should be so proud of yourselves! Your hard work and determination will not go unnoticed. I know, because we have walked in similar shoes for many years and over many miles. I’ve hit every frost heave and tried every detour until I finally found my route. My route is not that of my mother’s or father’s, not of my grandparents or aunts, uncles or cousins, and not of my siblings. It is my own path, a path that I forged to create a better life for my son and I. I can’t say that my life is perfect, or that I wake up feeling complete everyday, because I don’t. I am not “completely healed”, and am not sure that I will ever be. But I know I can overcome and achieve anything I put my mind and effort towards, and I know I wouldn’t be who I am, and my son wouldn’t be who he is, if I didn’t have to fight so hard for what I wanted. To break the cycle.
I often wonder, when retelling My Story, where I should start. Do I start by telling you about my underprivileged teenage mother and father? Or their early divorce? Their domestic violence? Or how my brother’s greatness constantly overshadowed all of my successes? Or do I start by telling you that I attended 14 schools in 13 years? Or about watching addictions take over my once beautiful mother. In the end I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter where the story begins, but instead where it goes – because it leads to the same place… this place, my place. The one I worked for and created.
From the time I was born until I turned 18 I had moved around A LOT, attended many schools and haven’t lived with either of my parents since I was 12 years old. I dropped out of high school my senior year after coming to the realization that I wasn’t going to graduate that spring due to losing too many credits from poor attendance. A few months later I found myself uneducated and pregnant. My mom’s path – and so this is where MY journey begins.
The following September I entered The Good Samaritan Agency’s TPE program to complete my high school education. I remember one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Robi, allowing me to bring my son to chemistry each day while attending program because if I didn’t we were all distracted by his whaling cries from the daycare down the hall or there was even the chance that I would not go to class at all. But, I had finally found some support from the teachers and social workers there and they were pushing me forward, they showed me that they would support me and give me what I needed to find some success in my education.
As I came closer to graduation and thinking about what I wanted to do after high school I had to sign up and take my SATs, which I received a grant for. I’ll never forget walking into Bangor High School, 8 months pregnant, wearing my boyfriend’s oversized clothes because I couldn’t afford a single article of clothing that was maternity wear, to take this 3 ½ hour test – and I remember trying to fit my pregnant belly into one of those tiny desks with the chair attached. Then as I finally squeezed-in, not thinking about the analogies or vocabulary, math or writing that I was going to have to complete, but instead feeling all the eyes of the unknowing teenagers staring at me, judging me, disgusted by me or taking pity on me, or finding something in between. I wanted to disappear into thin air. Once I was squeezed into the desk, one of my three sharpened pencils rolled onto the floor. I just looked at it and sighed, wishing I wouldn’t have to attempt to bend over to grab it, hoping “they” wouldn’t all still be staring at me when I did. Then, the young boy next to me eased over his desk, grabbed the pencil and handed it to me, along with a look of pity. I’ll never forget that look, for as long as I live, it will sit in the back of my mind reminding me that without hard work and perseverance I might be pitiful and I might not give my child a life different from my own.
That following spring I graduated from The Good Samaritan Agency’s Teen Parent Education Program as Valedictorian, without a parent, aunt, uncle, cousin or sibling to support me. I knew right away I wanted to attend college and I knew that I wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to be someone who could support children. To make them feel special and to teach them that they can be anything they want and do anything they want with their lives. I wanted to be there for them like the teachers at Good Sam’s were for me. But I want to catch it early – I don’t want any child to question their amount of greatness. I want to plant a tiny seed in a child’s mind and watch it grow into a strong, beautiful tree. I want to give them all what I never had – direction, intention, drive, dedication, hope, and grit. Momentum.
I was accepted into the University of Maine and maintained good grades, two jobs, and single motherhood for almost three semesters. But maintaining that amount of work can often times seem completely impossible and once you get behind you feel so overwhelmed-it’s hard to know where to start. But as I have discovered, once you begin working towards something, with direction and intention, drive, dedication, and grit, your path becomes more clear. It becomes attainable. Once you can see yourself accomplishing your goal, you are only steps away – you realize that you can do it! You see, there’s this thing called momentum, which can be so strong that it pushes you in a direction without your permission.
But in life you need things; direction, intention, drive, dedication, hope and pure grit. You need these things to create your momentum or change your momentum, to push through, to get through, to create your own path. They talk about momentum in sports. You see it, you know how strong and talented an athlete or team is, but no matter how hard they are working nothing seems to go their way. The announcers talk about the athlete or team’s momentum, how they have to turn it around create momentum in their direction. But it just seems impossible. However, if you have momentum going your way, it often appears as though no matter the little – or sometimes sizeable – bumps you hit, as long as you are working hard you keep moving forward toward your goal.
As I got older and gained more experience I reflected on myself and where my life was headed. I decided I needed to work on my emotional self before I could completely move on, for I had gained many internal scars in my years. I worked to get back together with my son’s father and strive for a strong relationship and a strong family. We have worked hard and supported each other in our endeavors. He is my best friend, my companion, and he has helped me to become the successful person I am today.
So, after taking a break from my education for a few years, working in customer service and sales, and working on my family life, I realized I wanted more. So I reapplied to the University of Maine and was accepted with academic probation. But this time was different, this time something was burning inside of me, and I knew I could do well if I worked hard, if I didn’t give up. So for the next 3 ½ years, while my partner was building his business, I attended classes alone, I attended classes with my son in tote and sometimes I didn’t attend classes due to stomach flus, doctors’ visits, or school functions. I lived on about $10,000.00 a year, which were student loans and I’ll be paying them off forever, with interest! So I had to ask for help, accept hand outs, and constantly feel as though I was worthless, that maybe I couldn’t do it. Nights away with friends and boyfriends weren’t an option, dinning out on the weekends were a couple of times a year thing, and we didn’t spend carelessly. I worked hard, and it was noticed. I started seeing academic success and I became hungry for more. I was pushing myself harder and harder. My momentum was gaining. I could see it – I could see myself earning a college diploma. I graduated from the University of Maine in December of 2009 with two degrees in Education. The following summer I was hired by the Bangor School District as a classroom teacher at Downeast Elementary School, the same school I attended most of my third grade year.
Although I felt very proud of myself and as though I was becoming successful in life, it wasn’t until my son named me his hero for an eighth grade Literacy assignment that I knew I had found success. That was the moment when I knew that all of my sacrifices, hard work, and dedication were worth it all. For all the super heroes, pro athletes, celebrities, musicians, and politicians that could be a 14 year olds’ hero, and he picked me, his mom. The hard times, the embarrassing times, the painful times, and the times I forced myself out of bed to face what the day had to offer. It was worth it – and I have met success. My path has been created and now I can point it in any direction I’d like to go. My life is what I make it and my childhood does not define who I am today.
So, my message to you today is this. Momentum is all around us. We can either let it push us around or we can take charge of it. But to take charge of your momentum you will need courage. You will need direction and intention. You will need drive, dedication, and hope. You’ll need GRIT, pure and simple.
So congratulations today and may the fire in you burn brightly, giving you the fight to continue on YOUR path.
The Good Samaritan Agency is a wonderfully well-managed, comfortable organization with a dedicated, knowledgeable, warm and friendly staff that is compassionate to the many reasons why people choose to adopt. The adoption process can be confusing, but our case manager, Liz, thoroughly walked us through every step of the way until, and even after, we held our tiny baby in our arms. Although miles away from where we live, we chose Good Sam because of the team of people who work there and because of the support and outreach they provide to the community through their many programs. We look forward to our next adoption with them!
My two children have both attended Good Samaritan Agency child care since they were 8 weeks old. Now my son is 5 years old and my daughter is 2 years old and they are still enjoying their time in child care.
The Teachers and Staff at Good Samaritan are very well trained and definitely love to work with children. My kids both tell me about all the fun activities and projects they work on at “school”. My son especially loves the art projects, the outdoor play and his social time with his peers in the many varied centers that the Busy Bee teachers have planned and set up for all the kids in the classroom. His teachers also track his progress from year to year and have a portfolio of all his work that includes photos of my son in the classroom and samples of his work. I especially enjoy meeting with his teachers to discuss his progress and develop goals that we can work on at home and school. My daughter loves books, music, outside play and playing with her friends and teachers in the Leaping Lizard classroom. She talks about her friends and her teachers often, so I know she is well cared for while she is at Good Samaritan Agency.
I would definitely recommend the Good Samaritan Agency for anyone who is seeking a child care placement for their child. Their child will be exposed to a language-rich environment, they will have lots of fun and they will be well-cared for by the many caring and well-trained adults that work at Good Samaritan Agency.